Wanderlust is something that cannot be explained in a linear fashion. Also – much like other sorts of lust – intellectualising it just takes away the fun, intrigue and excitement.
Earlier on, a friend had asked me why I had wanted to travel, given that most of my travels last year were done by taking some time off the so-called settled life and plunging into unknown territories (no pun intended), all on my own volition. “Why do it alone? Why go here and not there? You have so much time and you’re only going to these few countries only?” I couldn’t quite explain to her in a way that I thought would be completely comprehensible to her. It is not a question of underestimating her ability to understand, but simply because knowing her who is also quite well-travelled herself, I’m fully aware that each person would have their own motivations or priorities each time they travel. Motive is a solitary seedling which is opened to influence and persuasion. Personal experience, on the other hand, is ever-evolving, shaped by the surrounding events and truly-lived un-premeditated in the moment. Maybe I was seeking for that unique unadulterated personal experience.
Some people travel to conquer the world, in an attempt to garner as many countries under their belt. Some people take on a very specific deliberate activity (e.g. biking, eating, hiking, museum-raiding) that is woven into each destination they go to. To each, his/her own, and to each, a boatload of experiences that only he/she and he/she alone would understand. Some people travel for the purpose of research or specific writing. Once, I met a guy who was in the process of writing a novel but his one-year travel was not for that, rather it is – as he says, after taking in a deep breath – “to absorb”. In a way, that describes my attitude of appreciating the entire experience – good or bad, exciting or mundane, rain or shine.
Each journey – even when undertaken by the same person – is motivated by different factors, depending on at which point in time of your life you travel.
Perhaps travelling brings about the sense of doing something out of the ordinary.
Maybe, but there are also people who travel to the same places over and over again, in search for old memories, or that familiar scenic spot. But yes, for me, getting out of the comfort zone and treading into the unknown brings about wondrous excitement (not forgetting the butterflies in the stomach too – as I’ll explain later).
In another sense, travelling is a way of doing something that goes against the mainstream thinking. Not that I am a minority, believe me there are many travellers in the world. But to undertake something like this alone (especially when you are a woman who’s travelling solo, you will have a 99.99% chance of hearing “That’s so dangerous!” or other similar unhelpful comments, regardless of how well-intended it may be) is usually unfathomable by most and is fueled by something greater than mere logic. Indeed, passion is both wondrous and enigmatic.
I seldom watch NatGeo or Discovery channels simply because up until recently I have never had cable TV. My dreams of far flung locales like the Galapagos islands and the Andes arose from hazy impressions collected from either secondary school Geography classes, novels (yes – those fictitious tales!) that I have read, or some location that I’d noticed while watching a movie (sometimes movie plots can be quite irrelevant) and then read up about. Little nuggets like these – and trust me, there are many many more – sow the seeds for fruitful imagination and the fervent hope that it could transpire into reality one day.
Balancing romantic notions with practicalities
Looking at things through romantic (and humourous) lenses takes away the sting of cynicism. But like most things in life, I’m certainly not advocating chasing passion and plunging headlong without doing your ground work. Research and plan. Slowly, the picture of an unattainable dream will morph into a silhouetted but practicable existence.
Most of the time when I’m researching for a trip, I seldom refer to photographs, although I’m aware some people find the inspiration to travel from beautiful photos. The few times I do search for pictures of a particular locale is for the purpose of getting my bearings or identifying significant landmarks which could help me locate a place, e.g. which bus stop to get off in case of language barrier or avoid getting duped by an unscrupulous taxi driver or to roughly assess the hazards/difficulties of a particular terrain (which is also at best, a very rough assessment and should not be a substitute for other means of research e.g. talking to travellers who have been there).
Feeling scared? It’s okay – you are normal.
Even though I moved out from home when I was 16, and planned my own travels since I was 19, till this day I still get butterflies in the stomach each time I travel, regardless of whether I’m travelling alone or with someone else. Nowadays though, I know that this symptom is normal. Going solo to a place where even few of your friends have heard of, much less been to, is as if going into unchartered waters with a mixed sense of intrepidity and anxiety – that feeling is normal. As a friend said, once you start your journey, you will get into the groove of things and ease up on worries. Start off your trip by feeling a bit nervous – okay, maybe rather scared – but go armed with background research and an open heart: you may get shocked/repulsed by new cultures, or you may end up falling in love with a strange new land or new people. Either way, you may be rewarded in many ways that you have never imagined.
I have only started this blog just over a year ago, which was meant to be a personal journal. It just so happened that I travelled in the interim and therefore continued to use this platform as my journal. It is not meant to be a boastful travel-log, although I’m unashamed to say I’m quite proud of some of my little achievements. Since I returned last year, I learn that some friends also wish to take some time off to travel and I just want to share some of my experiences which hopefully would be useful. Some thoughts can be found here and here.
Travelling is not everyone’s cup of tea. Furthermore, this post is prefaced by the premise that wanderlust cannot be rationally explained. Therefore, I will not even attempt to persuade others to travel – and if you already desire to travel you don’t need much persuasion anyway! Rather, I will leave you with this: life has its own adventures. It will be tough if you choose to embark on a journey that is difficult for others to understand. More so, if you choose to embark on that journey all by yourself. Alone. Solo. Sola (the feminine adjective in Spanish). But have courage.
The best part of it is, I never thought that some vagabond-ish desire to travel could evolve into a thread of life philosophy.